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Casey looked around. The area was neat…well, considering that it was a room with walls made of animal skins, in a very large cavern, where literal stone-aged people dwelt. There were numerous baskets, ranging in size from so small that she could hold it in her hand to large enough for a child to sleep in. Sam had pointed out the various dried plants that were tied in bunches and hung against the rock wall of the cavern. A round stone that would fit perfectly in one's hand, lying on top of a flat stone, could only be a mortar and pestle. Obviously this woman made potions, poultices, balms and other such healing concoctions.
"What do you think will happen?" Sam asked softly.
"I have no idea," Casey replied.
The blonde colonel smiled. The younger woman sounded more like her husband all the time. Smiled wider as the thought that she had been known to sound like Jack flashed through her mind. "Well, I guess all we can do is sit and wait. At least they haven't taken our weapons or packs from us."
"I doubt that they know what our weapons are. As for our packs, it looks as if these people could probably put everything they own into a pack. I suppose that they figure what we're carrying is the whole of our possessions."
Sam nodded. "Sounds probable." She glanced around again. A pile of furs in one corner offered the only place to sit, other than the dirt floor. She took one of the skins, surprised at the weight, and spread it out. "Might as well get comfortable."
"You're on," Sam replied with a giggle.
Casey pulled the deck of cards from her pocket, and began to shuffle. "Let's just hope that Daniel can figure out what's going on and get us out of here," she said softly. Something began to poke at the back of her mind. 'Daniel?'
'Right here, Angel.'
'Don't tell them we're married. It feels…dangerous.'
'Love you, too, Case.'
With a sigh, Casey returned her attention to the game. Just in time to watch Sam spread out her cards in gin. "Oh, so not fair," she complained.
Sam grinned. "Not my fault you were distracted!"
The two women giggled, and started another game.
A A A A A A
Daniel frowned. "Casey just warned me not to tell these people that she and Sam are our wives."
Jack's frown matched that of his young friend. "That doesn't sound good."
"No, it doesn't," Daniel agreed.
"No doubt these people would not hesitate to kill you, believing that you might take the women they perceive as the Daughters of the Great Spirit Mother," Teal'c said. "Any attempts to get to the Stargate at this time would be futile."
"I agree," Jack said. "Now, what we have to do is figure out how to get out of this. Casey said she didn't feel anything bad…but that there was something mysterious about this place. Any ideas on that?"
Daniel shrugged. "Not really."
"Well, if need be, Danny, you're gonna toss some of those cool blue fireballs around. That should at least buy us time to get to the 'gate and get out of here," Jack said.
"Jack, this is the perfect opportunity to observe people who are actually cave dwellers! They use stone tools! Studying them could give us a clue to our own past!" Daniel contended, his eyes shining with excitement. "Nothing has happened, let's just wait and see what this ceremony is about."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Daniel, I'm telling you right now, that if push comes to shove, we're taking Sam and Casey and getting the hell out of here!"
"I don't think we're going to have to start shoving anyone," Daniel argued. "There have been no threats made, no one has attacked us-"
"No one has even approached us since that old lady took our wives," Jack groused.
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. "It is as if our existence means little to them."
The three men watched as the people stood gathered around the 'room' where the two blonde women had been taken. Inagrid began to give orders, and the people dispersed, hurrying to accomplish the tasks she had given them. The three teenage boys of the clan ran out of the cave. Several women grabbed what looked like stiff balloons and followed the old shaman as she hurried outside. The three men they had met outside the cave, plus two more, grabbed a dozen of those deadly looking spears and disappeared outside as well.
"They're going hunting," Daniel whispered.
"For what?" Jack asked.
"Meat. I have the feeling that there's going to be a feast after this…ceremony."
"So, are we going to be invited?"
"I have no idea," Daniel admitted. He stood up, stretched, then shoved his hands into his pockets. He wandered around the cave, squatting down to examine the tools that were in the process of being created from pieces of flint, several already boasting razor sharp edges. Another area was obviously where the hides were cut, and sewn, or laced, into the wrappings and clothing that the people wore. No one seemed to pay any attention to him as he studied the various work areas. He slowly made his way to the 'room' where his wife and his best friend had been taken. Three men, two of them much older than the others, took a stance in front of the opening to that 'room', the looks that they gave him leaving no doubt in his mind that he wasn't to wander near. The women huddled behind the men, preventing him from even being able to see his wife.
"Well, that was interesting," Jack said. He and Teal'c had tried approaching separately as well, Jack following one of the cavern walls, the Jaffa taking the more direct route through the middle of the cave, skirting the large fire. They too had been given warning looks.
"Yeah," Daniel said. "Let's see if they can move around freely."
Jack nodded his approval.
'I'm here, Stud Muffin.'
He grinned. 'I want you to try and step out of that area where you are. Tell me what happens.'
The men waited, and watched. The women seemed to become slightly agitated for a few minutes.
'Daniel? The women won't let us leave here.'
'That's what I thought. We can't get anywhere near you.'
They met in that sunny meadow.
"Daniel, there's something…strange…going on. I just can't seem to focus on it," Casey admitted.
"What do you want to do?" She wouldn't have 'called' him had she not had something in mind.
"Come with me, my heart," she said softly.
He watched her as she closed her eyes. He opened himself, let her take the strength she needed to take them wherever it was that she was wanting to go. He held tightly to her, felt himself pulled upwards. Looking down, he could see the women filling those 'balloons', he realized they were probably the stomachs of large animals, with water. Inagrid was busy digging in the mud. No, that wasn't mud…that was clay! Blue clay!
'Any ideas?' Casey asked softly.
'You and Sam are probably going to be 'decorated' with clay.'
'Why do I have the feeling that isn't a good thing?'
'I don't know that it would be a good thing to refuse,' Daniel warned her.
'So how are we going to get out of this?'
'I have no idea. For right now, we're not being harmed. It's a rare opportunity to study the lifestyle and culture of stone-age people,' he said, repeating what he had already told Jack. 'Let's not get hasty about leaving.'
Casey smiled. 'That's my sexy archaeologist talking,' she said. 'Do you think we'll be allowed to be together after this ceremony?'
'I hope so.'
She pulled her lip between her teeth. 'You did bring it, didn't you? Just in case?'
He smiled, reached out and mentally caressed her. 'I have it, Angel. Let's just hope I won't need it.'
'Here's hoping.' She took them back to that meadow, where she wrapped her arms around his neck. "Let's not study the natives too long, okay?"
He chuckled. "A couple of days, tops."
"Promise." He nuzzled her cheek, then brushed his lips lightly against hers before settling them firmly for a kiss. The sensations were as powerful as real kiss. He was certain that his body was probably responding, so he pulled slowly away from her sweet mouth. "I love you, Angel."
"I love you, Daniel," she whispered.
"I'm right here if you need me."
She nodded. Her hands remained in contact with his as long as possible as he slowly pulled back, then began to move away from her. She waited until he was 'gone' before opening her eyes again.
A A A A A A
According to his watch, it had been four hours since Inagrid had taken Casey and Sam to the 'room' where they were now, for all intents and purposes, prisoners. Jack and Teal'c had discovered that the people in the cave didn’t seem bothered if the men left the cave, or came back in. The only time faces became hostile was if they attempted to move closer to those animal skin walls that separated them from their wives.
Daniel had taken his camcorder and attached one of the spotlights, and was carefully recording the cave, getting close ups of the various drawings, representations of animals, that decorated the walls. 'Case?'
'Babe, take your cam and get pictures. I'm sure that Rachel would be thrilled to see a cave-dwelling shaman's quarters,' he told her, referring to one of the experts on cave dwellers back at the SGC.
'Okay. So what's going on out there?'
The men of the clan were still guarding the door, but the women seemed to be busy cooking, three of them were hastily sewing what he assumed would be garments for the two 'Daughters of the Great Spirit'. 'I think they're getting ready for the ceremony.'
'Do you have any idea at all what this ceremony is?'
'Sorry, Angel. Not a clue.' He heard her sigh. 'I promise, Case, if it looks like it's going to get dangerous, or…intense, we're out of here.'
'I'm holding you to that!'
He smiled, sent his love to her, his smile widening when he felt hers wrap around him, it warmed him to his very core. He was still smiling, examining one of the drawings when the lovely young woman he had noticed earlier moved to stand beside him.
"What is it you are doing?" she asked shyly.
Daniel had been surprised that the people showed very little interest in the spotlight of his camcorder. He had expected them to react with a bit of fear, or at least curiosity. Neither had happened. It was as if he, and Jack and Teal'c, didn’t even exist! "I'm making a recording of images. Here, let me show you." He stopped the recording, backed it up, and let it play in the small viewfinder.
Dark eyes went wide. "It is great magic!"
Now that was more the response he had expected! He smiled at her. "No, not magic. Where I come from, my home, this is a tool. I'm an archaeologist. I study civilizations that are dead…um…gone. Taking images helps me to learn about them," he told her.
She shifted closer, her breasts brushing against his arm. "You are a shaman?"
He stepped away from her, just enough that the contact was broken. "No, not exactly. I'm a scholar…um…" he frowned when she moved again, this time to stand directly in front of him.
"Do you not find me pleasing?" she asked breathlessly. That she found him attractive was plainly visible in her eyes. As was the want that filled her heart.
Oh, hell! As if there weren't enough problems right now! "You're a very beautiful woman. But I am very much in love with my Wife."
"You are mated?" This news brought a frown to the lovely face.
"Where is this one who holds your heart?"
"In there," he said, pointing at the shaman's quarters with his thumb over his shoulder, before he realized what he had said. He groaned mentally. Damn it! This could complicate matters! Casey had warned him not to reveal that they were married!
Dark eyes widened again, her mouth a perfect 'o' of surprise. "You would lay claim to the Daughter of the Great Spirit Mother?"
Okay, how did he answer this without getting himself, Jack and Teal'c killed? "She claimed my heart many years ago…um…many winters ago," he replied. He didn’t know whether to feel relieved or panicked when Inagrid returned, and the young woman ran to her side, whispered in the old woman's ear, pointing at him.
The old woman shook her head, never broke stride as she hurried toward her quarters. Daniel didn't know if that was a good thing, or not.
A A A A A A
Sam and Casey stood up when the old woman entered the 'room'. She smiled hesitantly, revealing yellowed teeth. She bowed slightly, then stepped closer, tugging at the shirt that Sam was wearing.
"Oh, please tell me she doesn't want us to undress," Sam moaned.
Casey shook her head. "I don't like this, not at all!"
When the old woman pulled a long, narrow flint from one of the pockets on the skin dress she was wearing, both women knew that they could undress willingly, or have their clothes cut from them.
A shudder moved over Casey's slender frame. She had horrible memories associated with her clothes being cut from her body…some real, others not, but all there nonetheless. Her hands were shaking as she slowly began to take off her BDU.
Nodding with satisfaction that the women were doing as required, Inagrid began to mix several powders together in a bowl hollowed out from a piece of rock. When she was finished, she had bright red paint. She turned around, frowned to see that there were still strips of those strange skins covering the women. She reached a gnarled hand toward Casey, pulled at the bra strap.
"Oh, hell!" Casey muttered. With a sigh, the bra and panties went onto the pile of her clothes. She stood naked in front of the old woman.
Inagrid dipped her fingers into the bright red paint, and began to decorate the slender body, noting how little body hair the woman seemed to have. Where she should have had a thick patch of downy curls, there was a narrow vee of closely trimmed dark blonde hair. There was no hair at all on her legs, or beneath her arms when she raised them as instructed. Truly these women…with their hair of sun-gold, and their perfect bodies, their beautiful faces…were the Daughters of the Great Spirit Mother!
A A A A A A
Excitement filled the cavern when fifteen more people entered behind the teenaged boys who had left the cave nearly six hours earlier. There was a great deal of animated talk; Daniel listened carefully.
"That is another clan, one that is related to this one through various marriages. They have been allowed the privilege of participating in the ceremony," he translated softly. He gave a low groan. "I didn't catch it all, but there was something about the Festival of Spring, and that the Daughters of the Great Spirit Mother would do…something…then."
"Yeah, well we're not staying here that long," Jack replied.
The hunters returned nearly an hour later, with a carcass already prepared to put over the fire. The meat was sliced into small, thin pieces, then pushed onto long sticks. Children and several of the oldest clan members gathered around the fire, holding a stick in each hand, slowly turning the meat above the flames. In minutes the enticing aroma of cooking meat filled the air.
Baskets that had been carried in by the women of the visiting clan were opened, and wooden platters seemed to appear from nowhere, to be stacked with food that had been brought along for the feast. There were several varieties of what appeared to be a type of flat bread, as well as small cakes that looked like they contained nuts and berries. Two of the men were holding skin bags that were undoubtedly filled with the local version of moonshine. The feast was nearly ready.
Two torches were lit from the flames of the fire, and the handles pushed into cracks in the cavern wall. The back corner of the cavern was now visible, and the drawings seemed to move and dance over the rock. Hanging against the back wall was a large animal skin, it looked as if it were from an animal similar to a bear. A very large bear. The fur had been completely removed, and there were markings in blue and red, symbols that no doubt had meaning to the people who began to gather together, sitting just outside a circle of round river stones. Each stone was marked with either red or blue, one symbol on each rock.
"This is incredible," Daniel whispered. He had the camcorder in hand once again, recording all that was happening.
A A A A A A
Casey looked at Sam. Both women were covered with symbols in red and blue. Which did absolutely nothing to disguise the fact that they were naked.
"We're going to have to go out there like this, aren't we?" Sam asked. Her blue eyes reflected her misery.
"Probably," the young blonde replied. Her green eyes were filled with the same jumble of emotions as her friend.
"What happens if we refuse?"
"I don't know," Casey admitted. "But I'm willing to find out."
"Me, too!" Sam replied adamantly.
They didn't have long to wait to test their determination. When the two blonde women refused to move, at first Inagrid was merely surprised. She motioned again for them to follow her. Again they shook their heads, stepping back further into the room. The old woman was certain that she had done something wrong, had somehow offended the women. She dropped to her knees, began to moan softly, rocking back and forth, then took one of the sharp flints, prepared to cut herself.
Casey darted forward, stopped the gnarled hand before it could inflict the intended wound. She looked over at her best friend. "Now what do we do?" she asked softly.
"I don't know, Case. We can't let her cut herself, but I sure as hell don't want to go out there like…this!"
The young blonde Immortal closed her eyes. "Nude beaches, Sam."
A smile crossed the blonde colonel's face. She had told Casey about her visit to Spain, and the nude beaches that were common place there. Sam had admitted that it had taken her all day just to go topless. "Jack is gonna come unglued," she said.
"Yeah, Daniel isn't going to be so thrilled either. But let's face it, after all these years of working together, we've all caught accidental glimpses of each other."
"This won't be just an accidental glimpse," Sam pointed out.
"True, but unless you can think of some other way out of this, we're gonna have to go out there. These people live together in a cave. I doubt that nudity is anything new to them. I doubt that there are any of the taboos or religiously influenced sanctions against it."
"Good point. I still don't like it."
"Me, either. Daniel can't get close enough to be able to translate, so that we can tell this woman not to hurt herself, and that it's not necessary for us to be naked."
"I wonder if they'll even be allowed near this ceremony?"
Casey's eyes widened. "I hadn't thought about that!"
Inagrid had risen slowly to her feet. She understood that the two women were discussing the situation. She knew that the man with the light colored hair could speak the words of the Children. And that he could make himself understood to these women, and they understood him. But for the ceremony, it was forbidden for them to speak to a man. It was forbidden that they speak at all! She slowly moved closer, put a finger against their lips. The one with the long hair smiled, nodded her understanding. Her eyes went to her Sister, and with a slight shrug, nodded again. The tall Daughter sighed, then nodded as well.
A A A A A A
Jack, Daniel and Teal'c watched with concern as six young men, they were probably in their twenties, stripped their clothes off; obviously not at all concerned about the fact that there were nearly fifty people milling around, including women and children. They rubbed a paste on their bodies that made their bronze skin glisten in the light of the fire and the torches. Women who appeared to be their mothers carefully combed and braided their long, black hair. Two elderly men approached, and put several symbols on their bodies, using the blue clay. When they approached what Daniel had dubbed 'the altar', the people watching began to laugh and cheer and clap.
"I don't like this," Jack hissed.
"I don't either. I have the feeling that those men are going to be offered to Case and Sam," Daniel replied.
Jack quickly revised his opinion. "I hate this!"
Silence fell over the gathering of people when Inagrid stepped out from behind the skin that had been placed in front of the 'door' to the 'room' where Casey and Sam had been held. The only thing she wore was a skin around her bony hips. Her body was covered with red and blue symbols. She turned, motioned with her hand.
Hesitantly, her cheeks flushed red with mortification, Casey followed the old woman. Sam stepped out next, her cheeks pink as well. Both women kept their eyes on the stone walls around them, refused to look at any of the people who watched, spellbound.
She saw him, locked her gaze with his; felt him send his love, his reassurance, his pride in her ability to do what she had to do. Heard the whispers of love, the promise of escape as soon as it was possible.
Inagrid waited until the Daughters stood behind her. She smiled at them, took their arms and moved them to stand just in front of the skin on which the story of the Beginning was told. The old woman glanced at the six young men who qualified for the greatest of all honors. They were mesmerized by the beauty of the women for whom they would battle - for three days - to prove themselves worthy. Each hoping to win the heart of one of the Daughters. The old healer allowed herself another smile, before she resumed the stoic demeanor of the Shaman.
Daniel, Jack and Teal'c moved a bit closer. No one seemed to notice.
The old woman raised her arms. "In the Beginning of Time, the Great Spirit Mother created all things."
"Blessed is the Great Mother," the people intoned.
"A promise was made to the Children, that Daughters of the Great Spirit Mother would leave Her side, to guide the Children."
"Blessed be the Daughters," the crowd replied.
"Long we have waited for this day. Kneel down before those whose Father is the Sun, who come from the womb of the Great Spirit Mother!"
As if one, the crowd shifted until all were on their knees, faces lowered.
Inagrid took a cup, beautifully carved wood that had been rubbed smooth with sand from near the river. It had been polished to a high gloss with rendered fat from a giant elk. In it was the sacred wine, a mixture of fermented grapes, water, and a few pinches of a root that would relax the women, allowing them to enjoy the Ceremony of the Choosing. She held the cup to Casey's lips, having already determined that this Daughter was much more at ease being with the Children than her Sister.
Casey hesitated. Whatever was in the cup was definitely fermented. Before she could think about refusing, Inagrid had pressed the cup against her lower lip, lifted it, and practically poured the stuff into her mouth. Afraid that spitting the foul tasting liquid to the floor would be offensive to these people, who then might take it into their heads to get a bit violent, she forced herself to swallow.
The old woman repeated the process with Sam, then returned to Casey. That she had to force the women to drink the sacred wine was of no concern to her. She was certain that it was because it could not compare to wine that flowed from the cup of the Great Mother.
Daniel watched, knowing that whatever was in that cup tasted bad, and was no doubt drugged. He tried to 'talk' to Casey, but she wasn't responding. Which only happened when she was pissed off at him. Or drunk. She wasn't pissed off. Well, not at him anyway.
"We welcome you, Oh Daughters of the Great Spirit Mother," Inagrid intoned. She frowned slightly. Turned to find the man who could speak to the Daughters. "You may step forward," she told him.
Daniel walked toward the ring, ready to step over the stones. Several hands reached out and grabbed him, jerking roughly. Okay, so he had to stand on the outside. At least those six naked men had to stand outside of the circle as well.
"Since the Daughters have only just left their Mother's side, her words ring yet in their ears. In her wisdom, she has sent one who can speak to us, and to the Daughters," Inagrid said. The people around her nodded their understanding, and approval.
"These men," the old woman said, pointing to the naked young men, "have fulfilled every requirement to serve the Mother. They are, as such, the only men who may lay claim to mate with the Daughters."
Daniel translated, willing his voice to remain calm. He could see the effect of the words on the two women who stood behind Inagrid. He tried to offer comfort in his gaze. Reached out and gently caressed away the fear that he had seen fill Casey's eyes. 'I love you, Beloved. Only you, always you, forever.'
'Only you, Daniel, always you, forever!'
He could hear as well as feel her panic. He realized that Inagrid was staring at him. "I'm sorry, please say that again?"
"The oldest of the Daughters must choose the three men who will fight for her affection. The three remaining will fight for the affection of the youngest daughter," the old woman repeated. She had been watching those odd blue eyes. They had been fixed on the green eyes of the youngest Daughter. She had seen the love. And had known instinctively that more than just a look of love had passed between the two. Lara had insisted that this man claimed the young blonde as his wife. Once the Daughters had remembered the words of the Children, this man and his companions would be dealt with. As the Mother would wish.
Again Daniel translated. He watched as Inagrid took Sam by the arm, led her to where the young men stood. They all pulled themselves to their full height, but remained silent and otherwise still.
Sam glanced over her shoulder at Jack. She could see that he was angry. She could also see the worry in his brown eyes. "Daniel, don't you think it's time to tell them that we're already married?"
"I'll try. I don't think it will make a difference. I slipped and told…um…one of the young women that Casey is my wife, my mate. She told Inagrid. Who didn't act as if it mattered at all."
Casey's eyes went instantly to that beautiful young woman with the dark hair and eyes.
'Only you, Angel.'
She looked at him. "Only you," she whispered out loud.
"It's worth a try," Sam insisted.
With a nod, Daniel turned his attention to the old shaman. "Sam, the woman you are with, and Casey, the other, are already married…mated. Sam is the wife of our leader, Jack. Casey is my Wife."
"I do not believe you," Inagrid sniffed. "You may wish for them to claim you. But they will not. Only a man of the Children, dedicated to the Mother, can be claimed by the Daughters, can lay claim to the Daughters."
The air filled with tension. It was easy enough to figure out that the team was heavily outnumbered. Using their weapons was certainly not something they wanted to do. Especially with nearly a dozen children, several only toddlers, among the group of people who literally surrounded them.
"Daniel, let's just finish this, we'll try to slip away when everyone is asleep," Casey suggested.
The team looked at Jack. He sighed heavily. "Didn't Grandma Moses there say that those guys had to fight for Sam and Case?"
"For their affection, yes," Daniel replied.
"What if we wait until everyone is focused on those particular events, and make our getaway then?" Jack asked.
"I think it might work," Daniel said.
"Then that's the plan, for now."
Inagrid was furious. Those men were interfering! Even if the Daughters didn't understand the words of the Children just yet, they soon would. In the meantime, simple hand gestures would do. "Take them! Put them in the goat cages!"
There was no need to translate. Every member of the team understood that something had just gone wrong. Which proved that SG-1's luck was holding steady.
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